As the leaves begin to change, and we feel a nip in the air, Fall is loudly proclaiming, “I am here!” All my candles are lit , their dancing flames unleash the scent of harvest spices. I love the distinctive smell as it lingers throughout my house! Fall ushers Thanksgiving, a time of thankfulness; a time to be mindful of all we have been blessed with and the many things to be thankful for.
Not everyone is as fortunate as we are. I remember Oprah once saying, “Someone is always going to have more than you and someone is always going to have less than you.” That statement has always hit me. It is so easy to notice everyone who has more than me, I forget to remember there are many, many people that have less than me. This time of year I am always reminded of this truth and the importance of teaching our children the joy of thankfulness.
Children are often times unaware of this truth. Thankfully, we tend to protect them from our financial pressures and burdens and allow them to just be kids. I do believe however that it is important to teach them to appreciate what they do have and to recognize others who are less fortunate than themselves. How do we do that?
1. Make an effort to be verbally thankful. Share the many things you have to be thankful for and notice those who are not as fortunate. “I am so thankful we have a car that works, I worry about those who have to walk everywhere, even when it’s cold outside.” “We are blessed to have our health. Let’s pray for (name) who has not been feel well.”
If our kids want something they can’t have or are not thankful for something others would appreciate, don’t use “the less fortunate” as a pawn to teach thankfulness-“You should be thankful you even have food to eat. Kids in Africa are starving!” or “Well, you should be glad you even have shoes. Some kids have to go barefoot.” This does not work. It only creates frustration and bitterness.
Point out the little things in life you love or appreciate often like… sunshine, working out, reading. Our kids will begin to soon notice and appreciate the little things in their life too!
2. Model thankfulness. This means we should complain less, encourage more and make a consertive effort to look outside of ourselves. “Let’s make cookies for your teacher. She works hard helping you learn.”
3. Teach our children to write thank you notes. I must admit I have failed my kids in this respect. Although I write thank you notes, I have not been “on it” asking my kids to do the same. The Dollar Store has blank “Thank you” Cards. Have them stocked and easily accessible for everyone to use. An email is a nice way to acknowledge a thank you but I believe it is important to teach them to write a “thank you” when they have received a gift.
4. Be an active giver. There are so many ways to give that will cost you nothing. I have our kids go through their things in the spring and again right before Christmas to give to The Salvation Army. I always remind them, we don’t give away junk. Everything we have, someone will appreciate. We also encourage them to think sacrificially as they do so. Is there something they have and really are not using and know someone else might be excited to have?
Recycling is an easy way to help others. We recycle glass and plastic bottles as well as cans. In the past, we have the used the money at Thanksgiving to buy warm meals and a bed at our local homeless shelter, Redwood Gospel Mission. For Christmas, through World Vision International we have purchased a goat and chickens for a village and now we sponsor a 13 year old girl in Mexico through Compassion International.
If you have older children, you can donate your time and serve meals any time of year at a soup kitchen. Holiday’s are a very demanding time for most soup kitchen’s as they try to give the gift of an special meal. That is an awesome way to serve as a family and teach thankfulness.
I can tell you, my children are healthier and happier because of the intentional effort we have made to teach thankfulness. They love to help others, appreciate all they have…even if it is less than what their friends have and both are empathetic and compassionate human beings.
How do you do to teach your children thankfulness?